The Bathing Suit

I have just been through the annual pilgrimage of torture and humiliation known as buying a bathing costume. When I was a child in the 1950's, the bathing costume for a woman with a mature figure was designed for a woman with a mature figure - boned, trussed and reinforced, not so much sewn as engineered. They were built to hold back and uplift and they did a darn good job.

Today's stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a figure chipped from marble. The mature woman has a choice - she can either front up at the maternity department and try on a floral costume with a skirt, coming away looking like a hippopotamus who escaped from Disney's Fantasia - or she can wander around every run-of-the-mill department store trying to make a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer range of fluorescent rubber bands.

What choice did I have ? I wandered around, made my sensible choice and entered the chamber of horrors know as the fitting room. The first thing I noticed was the extraordinary tensile strength of the stretch material.

The Lycra used in bathing costumes was developed , I Believe, by NASA to launch small rockets from a slingshot, which give the added bonus that if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you are protected from shark attacks. The reason for this is that a shark taking a swipe at your passing midriff would immediately suffer whiplash.

I fought my way into the bathing costume, but as I twanged the shoulder strap into place I gasped in horror - my bosom had disappeared. Eventually I found one bosom cowering under my left armpit. It took a while to find the other.

At last I located it flattened beside my seventh rib. The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups. The mature woman is meant to wear her bosom spread across her chest like a speed bump. I re-aligned my speed bump and lurched toward the mirror to take a full-view assessment.

The bathing costume fitted all right , but unfortunately it only fitted those bits of me willing to stay inside it. The rest of me oozed out rebelliously from top, bottom and sides. I looked like a lump of play-dough wearing undersize cling-wrap. As I tried to work out where all those extra bits had come from, the prepubescent salesgirl popper her head through the curtain, " OH, THERE you are !" she said, admiring the bathing suit. I replied that I wasn't so sure and asked what else she had to show me.

I tried on a cream crinkled one that made me look like a lump of masking tape, and a floral two piece which gave the appearance of an oversize napkin in a serviette ring. I struggled into a pair of leopard skin bathers with a ragged frill and came out looking like Tarzan's Jane on a bad day. I tried a black number with a midriff and looked like a jellyfish in mourning. I tried on a bright pink one with such a high-cut leg I thought I would have to wax my eyebrows to wear it.

Finally I found a costume that fit.... a two piece affair with shorts-style bottoms and a halter top. It was cheap, comfortable and bulge - friendly, so I bought it. When I got home, I read the label which said "Material may become transparent in water ", but I'm determined to wear it anyway. I just have to learn to breastroke in the sand.